Sources of Ambient Sulfur Dioxide (SO₂) in the Metro Atlanta Area

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Lowe, Miranda Jeanne
Mulholland, James A.
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Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is a difficult air pollutant to characterize spatially since it is primarily emitted from a few point sources typically having tall stacks. A better comprehension of the behavior and advection of ambient SO2 in metro Atlanta will help in the interpretation of epidemiologic analyses as well as establish an understanding of the source contributions to ambient SO2 in Atlanta. The operation and SO2 emission characteristics of four coal-fired power plants and a coal-fired cement kiln, all of which lie in the vicinity of Atlanta, were examined. Data retrieved from three downtown Atlanta monitoring stations that record ambient SO2 concentrations were also examined. Trends from ambient SO2 data agree with emission trends from the four coal-fired power plants, suggesting that one or more of the power plants are contributing to the ambient SO2 in Atlanta. SO2 rose plots using concentration and wind direction data from downtown monitoring stations were developed to identify from which direction the elevated levels of ambient SO2 were originating. A strong peak in the northwest direction of Atlanta suggests that Plant Bowen, Plant McDonough, or Lafarge Building Materials may be contributing to high concentrations of ambient SO2 in Atlanta. Further analysis concluded that Lafarge was not a likely contributor to the northwest peak. The plumes of Plant Bowen and Plant McDonough were modeled using air parcel trajectories and the Gaussian dispersion model. The results suggest that, when the wind is blowing from the northwest direction, Plant McDonoughs plume is the primary contributor to the elevated levels of SO2 recorded by downtown Atlanta monitoring stations.
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